The Baltimore Orioles flopped out of Yankee Stadium tonight in so dismal a condition that the kindest possible description of their fifth straight loss would be "ominous."
The Yankees finished off a three-game series sweep here -- all one-run victories in which the Birds held temporary leads -- with a 6-5 job built on home runs by Oscar Gamble, Jim Spencer and Reggie Jackson off Jim Palmer.
Mean old Yankee Goose Gossage closed the door with three shutout innings of relief that dropped the Oriole record to 5-8 and blurred the fond memory of two Eddie Murray homers.
The Birds got six hits tonight, giving them a paltry 34 in their last six games and only 13 in their series here. The Yanks, meanwhile, climbed above .500 at 7-6 after a worrisome start. Suddenly, roles are reversed.
"Baltimore looked kind of flat . . . not real aggressive," Spencer appraised. "Last year was their year. All the little things went right and they won these one-run games. I can't see 'em winning again this year."
Perhaps surprisingly, Spencer held a minority opinion.
"The Orioles just aren't quite together yet on the mound," said Jackson, whose two-run clout more than halfway up the right-center bleachers broke a 4-4 tie in the sixth. "They'll come around.
"They got too much pitching, too much manager, too much experience to get rid of. If they'd won these three games by one run, instead of the other way, everybody'd be givin' the pennant to 'em again. Nobody's really drawn blood yet."
The Orioles may not be hemorrhaging, but they're ready to call for the first aid kit.
"It's not time to panic yet," said Palmer. "Not until Friday."
"We're playing just like we did at the end of the last World Series," put in Rick Dempsey, who had a run-scoring triple, "just well enough to lose.
"But there's no use to worry. This ain't no bottom club. These guys aren't gonna fold. We'll be back in first place in six weeks . . . give or take a week or two for the strike."
Brace Oriole talk was inexpensive tonight. Brave deeds were harder to come by.
Palmer, in particular, knew he was guilty after squandering leads of 2-0 and 4-2 created in the first and second innings.
"This has been a real team losing streak," offered Palmer, now 2-1. "Everybody has chipped in. Tonight it was my turn to be at fault. I got enough runs to win. I got out of an inning thanks to a great double play started by (Doug) DeCinces on a ball that could have been a double.
"That's about all I can ask. I just didn't have much tonight. I was never in command.
"In the first inning, Ruppert Jones hits a changeup off the wall for a triple, then Gamble gets fooled by a 3-0 changeup and he reaches out and flicks it down the line for a two-run homer. I was saying, "What's going on here?'"
Palmer never did get his bearings. Gamble, who has an incredible league-leading 15 RBI in 19 at-bats, drove in the third Yank run with a bloop single on a fast ball that jammed him in the third.
The last three Yankee runs had not a hint of taint.
Spencer rifled a bases-empty homer into the lower pavillion to tie the game in the fourth. "Lord, I just wish I'd played my whole career here," said Spencer, who hit 23 homers in only 295 at-bats last year. "Then I'd be known for something besides all my Gold Gloves.
"We ought to rename that corner by the 310-foot sign the Gamble-Spencer corner. This park was created for us."
No park could have contained the truly memorable game-winner that Jackson -- mired in a .207-hitting homerless slump -- crushed in the fifth after a walk to Gamble.
"A low fast ball exactly where Reggie likes it," said Palmer, who had only allowed Jackson one regular-season home run during his entire career. "He absolutely launched it. It was awesome. I just admired it."
"I supposed it was one of the 10 longest of my career," said Jackson, "but I'm not sure because at night I can't see far enough to watch them land. "
"I knew that one had some voltage. I just stood at the plate and squinted at it.My little stand-at-the-plate act has failed me a couple of times when I was wrong and the ball hit the wall and I ended up with a double instead of a triple. But tonight, I didn't have any doubts."
Murray's homers weren't shabby either, the first traveling 400 feet and the second with enough mustard to travel 475 feet had not the upper deck been in the way.